Sekhukhune United’s Nedbank Cup clash ‘like a final’ for AmaZulu

Published Mar 14, 2024


When Sekhukhune United welcome AmaZulu in their Nedbank Cup last-16 clash at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Thursday night (7pm kick-off), it will be the clash of arguably the two most enigmatic sides in the Premiership, at least by recent standards.

Like nobody’s business, the two teams can have a crazy knockout run to the final and even finish somewhere at the top of the league standings.

On any day they can dish out a strong performance and even beat top sides, giving high hopes to their fans, only to pull them back to earth by losing to less fancied teams.

Last season both teams lost in the cup finals to Orlando Pirates, a team they can send home frustrated at times.

Pirates beat AmaZulu in the MTN8 final, before wrestling the Nedbank Cup trophy from Sekhukhune.

It is expected that both sides are well aware of that comparable bit of their recent history as they prepared for this evening’s meeting, even though they both have undergone considerable changes since then.

AmaZulu coach Pablo Franco Martin is aware of Sekhukhune’s recent exploits.

“We are going to face this game as if it was a final and give it our best shot, as we did in our last game against SuperSport (United, where they drew 1-1 in a league match),” said Martin, whose team remained in Polokwane since the weekend.

“(We are playing) on the same pitch with the same difficulties (challenges) and another strong opponent, which will be strong since they will be at home.

“They are also among the four teams that are representing South Africa in continental competitions (this season). So with that, we know exactly the difficulties (they will be presenting us with).

“It is going to be tough and they are in good shape right now, but we are also back on track – we are competing better and better.

“It is going to be a really nice game. It is going to be a competitive game, but I am sure we are going to have our chances and hopefully, we will be able to take them and advance to the quarter-finals.”

While Sekhukhune have been playing in the CAF Confederation Cup, AmaZulu reached the knockout semi-final, losing to TS Galaxy, with fellow KZN side Richards Bay also beaten at the same stage by eventual champions Stellenbosch FC.

Since then, though, AmaZulu have dropped in form, which has seen them languishing at the bottom half of the standings along with neighbours Bay, Golden Arrows and Royal AM.

The six-point difference between Sekhukhune and AmaZulu speaks of the mettle of the Limpopo side, who continue to juggle domestic football with continental duties.

Sekhukhune are sixth on the standings with nine wins, and AmaZulu are 11th with five wins.

In the past five meetings between the two sides, though, it is Usuthu that have a slight upper hand, with two victories over Babina Noko’s solitary win.

“We are looking forward to the game because, to us, the knockout competitions are important. They give us a different opportunity.”

IOL Sport